The two vintages of Chardonnay I tasted come from the Jos. Belli Vineyard in Russian River. The 2015 Chardonnay Jos. Belli Vineyards was made from small yields, and according to Dick Arrowood, it is one of the top three vintages in his 50 years of experience. This wine offers loads of peach, honeysuckle, delicate apricot, caramelized citrus and apple blossom in a full-bodied, rich, discreetly oaked style. It is long, promising and super-concentrated. If this is an example of just how strong many 2015s will be, we’re in for another treat from Northern California. - Robert M. Parker, Jr., The Wine Advocate, Issue #223, March 2016
Our Chardonnay is grown by Joseph Belli, a close friend and longtime business associate of Richard’s. Joe has planted his grapes next to his home, a few miles south of Healdsburg on the western end of the Russian River Valley. The vineyard is set just past the edge of the valley floor, where the land starts to lift-up into rolling hills. These steep, terraced hillsides provide excellent drainage for the vines, reducing the water available to the roots, which in turn produces tiny berries with intense flavor. Since the vineyard faces the east, the vines receive full sunlight in the morning and early afternoon, while being protected from the more intense late afternoon sun. We use two clones of Chardonnay from the Belli ranch in our blend: Rued, a musqué selection of Chardonnay that contributes vibrant tropical aromatics, and Dijon, which delivers a classic Chardonnay profile rich in minerality and fruit flavors.
The weather during the growing season in 2016 was largely dry. We were fortunate to have had such a great harvest. The weather was as good as one could expect. The growing season began early, with a warm and dry spring, and the weather stayed beautiful all the way through an early harvest. The quality of the fruit was exceptional. The grapes were hand-picked between September 6th & 8th, 2016.
The nose of this wine opens with a burst of ripe pear, backed by a gentle note of dark honey and orange blossom. Linger with the glass, and you will find traces of gardenia and maple sugar, opening to a subtle aroma of flint. Take a sip, and the flavor of ripe, juicy pear immediately returns. It quickly gives way to toast and caramel, which in turn open to gentle characters of minerality and mild citrus zest. The mouthfeel is rich, bordering on oily, with a strong core of acidity to balance it out. The finish is full and lush, with characters of apricot jam and toasted oats, balanced against a light-yet-sharp trill of acidity at the tip of the tongue.
This wine was fermented in French oak barrels and then aged in barrel for 11 months, where the wine completed malolactic fermentation. The 2016 Jos. Belli Chardonnay is completely accessible now, but if stored properly, it will continue to develop for at least the next handful of years.
March 4th, 2016
USA, Northern California: Part III - Focusing Primarily on Sonoma
2015 Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, Jos. Belli Vineyards